Devan Dubnyk was upbeat after Minnesota Wild practice on Monday, his second time back on the ice with his teammates since sustaining a groin injury Dec. 5.
He's getting closer to getting back into a game, but on Tuesday, Darcy Kuemper will make his fourth consecutive start, and Dubnyk will be the backup against the Vancouver Canucks.
"He probably needs another day, but regardless, we were going to come back with [Kuemper] tomorrow anyway," Head Coach Mike Yeo said.
The problem the Wild has is anything but a problem. After Dubnyk was forced out mid-game after stretching to make a save, Kuemper has come in and picked up right where Dubnyk left off, going 2-0-2 with a .947 save percentage, and two regulation goals allowed.
"It's awesome. I'm not the least bit surprised. I hope nobody is," Dubnyk said. "He's a great goaltender, and that's a backup's job. Injuries happen, things happen, and to be able to come in and give the guys a few great games, he did a great job of that. Those are huge points for us."
Dubnyk's injury came at a time when he was finding a rhythm. He left amid a personal shutout streak of 125:32, coming off a 2-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks and a 1-0 shutout against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"I was pretty pissed off when it happened in the game. I wanted to stay in, and I knew I couldn't," Dubnyk said. "You go through times sometimes and you feel like you're never going to get scored on, and that was one of those times. But no reason we can't get that back either."
Kuemper though maintained Dubnyk's standard, despite the infrequency he played through the first quarter of the season.
"We knew looking at the schedule earlier in the year November was going to be a bit of a slow month for him," Yeo said. "Obviously that's a good opportunity to go with your number one goalie a lot. The flipside to that is we were worried he was going to get a little bit rusty in his game, and he's shown no signs of it."
Instead, Kuemper has been a calming force in the crease, showing poise and confidence, which Yeo said rubs off on his teammates.
"It's obviously a compliment to him, and the way he's practiced, and the way [goalie coach Bob Mason] has prepared him," Yeo said. "It's amazing what that does to the rest of the group as far as just slowing things down, and just giving us a chance."
The Wild's lineup will be the same on Tuesday, though its forward lines will be juggled again.
In practice on Monday, Yeo reunited the fourth line of Chris Porter, Erik Haula, and Ryan Carter.
"Just balancing things out a little bit more throughout our lineup through lines three and four as well," Yeo said.
The new third line was made up of Charlie Coyle centering Nino Niederreiter and Justin Fontaine.
"In theory it should be a line that can control the puck, possess the puck in the offensive zone," Yeo said. "It should be able to play against any line out there, and have the ability to create offense as well."
That left Thomas Vanek with Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker. Vanek and Koivu played on a line with Coyle for most of the Wild's 2-0 win against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday.
"Obviously chemistry comes with time, but I know their game pretty well, and they know mine pretty well," Vanek said. "Hopefully it should come pretty quickly.
"The best part for Mikko and myself is [Zucker's] speed. He's going to create a lot of space for us, and obviously he's a great finisher, so we're going to look to find him."
Here are the lines from the Wild's Monday practice:
Thomas Vanek – Mikko Koivu – Jason Zucker
Zach Parise – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville
Nino Niederreiter– Charlie Coyle – Justin Fontaine
Chris Porter – Erik Haula – Ryan Carter